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Many female domestic workers come—in some cases, even for decades—to support family members at home. They are sometimes the sole earner for their family and have few employment opportunities at home. Some hope to build houses for their family or invest in businesses. Rupa K.
Now adults in their 30s, they have children of their own, whom she sees every 2 years. She continues to work in Oman to help her daughter provide for her 3 children aged 5 to 7 because her son-in-law is blind and has not had work opportunities. When Human Rights Watch interviewed her she was using her wages to finance the construction of a house for her family. Latika C. We fell into debt because of this and so I decided to travel. Marisa L. He used to beat me. I came here in Oman for work and my children.
According to a government report, 23 percent of Omani families employ domestic workers, as do 2 percent of emigrant families. Yet domestic workers perform a wide range of vitally important tasks for their employers including: cleaning rooms, windows, and cars; washing and ironing clothes and other laundry; cooking meals; taking care of children, elderly, or individuals with disabilities or special needs; tending to pets, sheep, and goats; and gardening.
Abuses against Domestic Workers This section documents how numerous employers and recruitment agents have abused and exploited domestic workers in Oman. It includes the accounts of domestic workers who experienced forced labor, trafficking, and possible situations of slavery. It also describes a range of other abuses, including: physical, sexual, and psychological abuse; wage abuses, excessive work, and lack of rest; passport confiscation and violations of freedom of movement; and denial of food, rest for illness, and adequate living conditions.
Even where abuses against domestic workers do contravene Omani law, there is an apparent dearth of prosecutions or other effective enforcement see chapter III.
Most said their employers confiscated and held their passports. Some workers described involuntarily entering or remaining in domestic work. There, an agent took her to a recruitment agency in Al Ain. Shortly after, an Omani man hired her, and took her to Oman for domestic work. She said her employers did not pay her salary for 5 months, beat her when she asked to be paid, confiscated her passport, and made her work 15 hours a day with no rest or day off. They falsely accused her of a crime after she asked for her money.
Evelyn S. She said that members of the second family also verbally and physically abused her, including while she carried hot pots of food.
It helps enable situations where migrant domestic workers are physically confined to the homes they are made to work in, left unpaid, subjected to physical or emotional abuse, cut off from all outside contact, and unable to secure respect for any of the minimal rights they are entitled to under Omani law.
The mere assertion of ownership rights does not make for a situation of slavery, and Omani law certainly does not recognize any such claim of ownership.
But Human Rights Watch documented several cases in which police personnel are alleged to have returned workers who fled situations of confinement and abuse to their employers against their will. Human Rights Watch interviewed several workers who said that they fled abusive situations and then either sought assistance from or were detained by the police, only to be returned to their employers against their will see Chapter IV: Absconding and Police Behavior.
After a medical test in the UAE revealed a blood disorder, she said her employer returned her to the agency, which took her to their office in Al Ain, where she stayed for 25 days. Then they told her to go with an employer to Oman.
After two months, she fled to the police. She said that her employer then beat her and locked her in a room for eight days with only dates and water. She picked up my head by grabbing my hair.
They beat me mercilessly. I became numb from all the beating. Several country-of-origin embassy officials told Human Rights Watch that they cannot track workers migrating or trafficked into Oman via this porous border see chapter III. Nor can they provide these workers with contract verification or require employers to provide them with health insurance.
An Indonesian embassy official said many domestic workers who came to them for help had arrived in Oman from the UAE, sometimes in trafficking situations. The same official said that 60 out of women whom the Indonesian embassy had sheltered in April had come to Oman by crossing the UAE border. They noted that there were many recruitment agencies in Al Ain and Buraimi and that Omani employers travelled to Al Ain on Fridays to find a domestic worker.
It is just like window shopping. Please let me go home. But the agent hit her about 50 times with a stick that night, and sent her to work for another employer.
The new employer was no better. Asma said her second employer forced her to work 20 hours a day with no rest and no day off; confiscated her passport; gave her only leftover spoiled food; did not pay her; and verbally and physically abused her.
I begged her not to hit me. Sushila R. But just before she left Bangladesh, she learned that her visa designated her as a domestic worker. She said the agent explained that she would first be taken to a house, and then after two days, her employer would take her to a shop to do customer service work.
If you pay this, then you can go. She said she managed to escape after she jumped out of a second-story window and cut her feet. Human Rights Watch observed injuries during interviews such as missing teeth and hair, bruises, and burns.
Shima U. Madam pulled my hair, and burnt me on my arms. She pulled my hair and hit me all over. They beat me for asking for it. Aditya F.
Asma K. She said they called her to come to them, and she refused. She said he often got drunk and offered her money to have sex with him. The year-old son grabbed and raped me. Wage Abuses Some domestic workers told Human Rights Watch that their employers had not paid wages for anywhere from one month to one year.
They said the police did not follow up, and in several cases, domestic workers said their employers beat them after the police sent them back. Some domestic workers avoided the police altogether, stating that they feared prosecution.
For instance, Aditya F. Some workers said their employers filed, or threatened to file, trumped-up theft charges against them when they asked for their salaries or fled abuse. Some country-of-origin embassy officials told Human Rights Watch that they discouraged domestic workers from using these mechanisms because the process is lengthy, unlikely to succeed, and because the women are not legally allowed to work in the meantime.
Many workers simply give up and return home unpaid and without justice. Legal Framework Oman, like its Gulf neighbors and across the Middle East to varying degrees, implements the notorious kafala visa-sponsorship system.
Employers have an inordinate amount of control over these workers. Migrant workers cannot work for a new employer without the permission of their current employer, even if they complete their contract and even when their employer is abusive.
Workers who leave their jobs without the consent of their employer can be punished with fines, deportation, and reentry bans. Oman is also reportedly considering revisions to its labor law. Instead, domestic workers only enjoy a much narrower range of basic protections under regulations issued in that specifically pertain to domestic workers.
Omani authorities issued a standard employment contract for domestic workers in , which mandates one day off per week and thirty days of paid leave every two years. The contract also provides less than many workers are promised when recruited in their home countries, and falls far short of international standards.
Labor inspectors have no mandate to check on domestic workers, and as such, there are no inspections for working conditions of domestic workers in private homes. Where Oman has failed to provide adequate protection to migrant domestic workers, some countries of origin—such as India and the Philippines—have attempted to help address this gap by securing some basic protections for their nationals.
For instance, some have set minimum salaries for their nationals working in Oman, and have taken steps to blacklist abusive recruitment agencies and employers. However, these are no substitute for strong government action by Oman and in any event, some country-of-origin governments make no efforts to protect their nationals at all. However, in breach of these standards, Oman has, like other Gulf states, failed to adequately protect domestic workers against exploitation and abuse.
The International Labour Organization ILO and many United Nations human rights experts and bodies have called on Gulf countries, including Oman, to end the kafala system and grant domestic workers full labor law protections.
Oman should act now to reform its labor law to provide equal protections to domestic workers. It should also reform the kafala system to fully and effectively protect all migrant domestic workers in the country in line with international standards.
Oman should cooperate with countries of origin to prevent abuse and exploitation of domestic workers, and should thoroughly investigate abuses and prosecute those responsible.
It should ratify key international treaties, including the ILO Domestic Workers Convention, and bring its laws into compliance with their provisions. Key Recommendations To the Government of Oman Reform the kafala sponsorship system by amending the Foreign Residency Law and its implementing regulations and other laws so that domestic workers can terminate and transfer employment, at will and without employer consent, before and after completion of contract.
Remove "absconding" provisions in existing laws. Pass a law explicitly criminalizing passport confiscation by employers and agents. Criminalize forced labor under the penal code with adequate penalties, and thoroughly investigate and prosecute cases of forced labor, slavery, and trafficking.
Establish government-sponsored shelters for domestic workers fleeing abuse or provide financial support for private shelters; and publicize the existence and contact information of shelters and other assistance among domestic workers.
Train police officers on receiving and processing domestic worker complaints. Instruct police officers not to return domestic workers to employers or recruitment agencies against their will, and to thoroughly investigate all credible allegations of abuse against employers and recruitment agents. Coordinate with the United Arab Emirates on investigating situations of trafficking of persons, with a particular focus on the role of recruitment agencies in the towns of Al Ain and Buraimi.
Raise awareness of both domestic workers and employers of rights and responsibilities, and regularly inform employers of penalties for mistreatment. Report allegedly abusive employers and recruitment agencies to the Omani authorities, so they can investigate and prosecute where appropriate. They conducted interviews in Muscat, the Omani capital, and Seeb, a nearby coastal city, which have high concentrations of recruitment agencies and families employing domestic workers, and where many domestic workers fled after abuse by employers from other parts of Oman.
Human Rights Watch researchers interviewed 59 female migrant domestic workers between the ages of 19 and The interviews took place in a variety of locations including parks, open spaces, malls, cafes, hotels, and informal shelters.
The researchers conducted interviews in person, and one by phone. The researchers took care not to approach women in the presence of their employers. The length and depth of interviews varied depending on the degree of privacy at the interview location.
Researchers conducted most interviews individually, although some were group interviews. Human Rights Watch researchers discussed with all interviewees the purpose of the interview, the ways the information would be used, and its voluntary nature. No compensation was provided to interviewees for participating.
The researchers also advised all interviewees that they could decline to answer any question or end the interview at any time, and they sought to minimize the risk of further traumatization of those interviewees who had experienced physical or sexual abuse.
Researchers conducted interviews in English, Hindi, Bengali, and Arabic. Human Rights Watch researchers also interviewed lawyers, country-of-origin embassy officials, and community social workers who requested anonymity. This report uses pseudonyms for all workers and withholds names for all other individuals in the report who requested anonymity in the interest of their privacy. Interview locations and other identifying information has also been withheld where interviewees requested it.
Human Rights Watch requested meetings with Omani government officials in May However, the Oman Human Rights Commission informed Human Rights Watch that the government would not grant such meetings, and requested that Human Rights Watch not conduct research in Oman without prior government agreement. None had responded at the time of writing. Human Rights Watch makes no statistical claims based on these interviews regarding the prevalence of abuse against the total population of domestic workers in Oman.
Women seek to migrate abroad for domestic work for a variety of reasons. Many female domestic workers come—in some cases, even for decades—to support family members at home.
They are sometimes the sole earner for their family and have few employment opportunities at home. Some hope to build houses for their family or invest in businesses. Rupa K. Now adults in their 30s, they have children of their own, whom she sees every 2 years. She continues to work in Oman to help her daughter provide for her 3 children aged 5 to 7 because her son-in-law is blind and has not had work opportunities. When Human Rights Watch interviewed her she was using her wages to finance the construction of a house for her family.
Latika C. We fell into debt because of this and so I decided to travel. Marisa L.
He used to beat me. The Malaysian economic transformation management model, the Singaporean example of achieving prosperity through combining free trade and business-friendly policies with its role as a trans-shipment and logistics hub, and an initial infusion of substantial Chinese investment capital and project participation all have played central roles in how this process has unfolded — and will likely remain key determinants of its future progress.
Furthermore, the downturn in oil prices, which has undermined the economies and finances of all six GCC states, have hit Oman especially hard. Meanwhile, Oman has continued to grapple with complex underlying social challenges. Joblessness, particularly among youth — a structural problem throughout the region — is especially acute in Oman.
In response to a rare display of public discontent during the Arab Spring, the Omani government created some 50, new public sector jobs, raised the minimum wage for private sector employees, launched a new unemployment benefit, nearly doubled university enrollments, and increased the monthly stipend for students. Joblessness is kindling public dissatisfaction, as illustrated by the protests that broke out in January of this year in Muscat and Salalah, and spread to other cities.
It was out of this collaboration that the methodology for a national program, custom developed for the Sultanate, emerged.